What's the best wine to bring to a holiday party? André Hueston Mack, sommelier and host of World of Wine on Bon Appétit, has some beverage recommendations for your holiday get-togethers.

The bubbling question: What's the best wine to bring to a holiday party?

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Switching gears here, the holiday season is upon us, and people are gathering for dinner, celebrations and other merry occasions. But what to bring? A bottle of wine as a gift for the host? And if some attendees don't drink alcohol, which is increasingly common, how do you include them in the fun? We've asked sommelier Andre Hueston Mack to join us. He is the founder of Maison Noir Wines in Oregon and the host of "World Of Wine" video series on Bon Apetit. Here is a little taste of that.


ANDRE HUESTON MACK: I'm Andre Mack, aka Mouton Noir, aka the Black Sheep. As a sommelier at some of America's finest restaurants, I've selected and poured the world's most elite and expensive wines. But that's not what we're doing here today. I also like a bottle of cheap wine. And there's no one better than picking them out than me.

MARTIN: All righty, then. A good bottle. That's a holiday bargain. Bring it. And Andre Hueston Mack is with us now. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

HUESTON MACK: Hi. How's it going?

MARTIN: Well, better now. As you've just told us, you've worked and served wine at places like the French Laundry in California's famed Napa Valley. But as you say, you also enjoy a less expensive bottle of wine.

HUESTON MACK: This is true. This is true.

MARTIN: So as we dive into the holiday season, I'm guessing that there are folks who don't usually drink a lot of wine. And so they're going to be wandering around thinking, gee, how do I find a good gift? Or how do I kind of figure out what to buy? So let's just - can you just start with, like, do you have some rules for this or some words of wisdom just to start us off?

HUESTON MACK: Yeah. I mean, I think in wine, you get what you pay for. The key is searching out a good wine shop. We all want to be able to bring something. I think you can't go wrong with bubbles. It doesn't always have to be champagne. I feel like during the holiday season, that's pretty celebratory. But champagne can be pricey and expensive. But, you know, something like Cava or Prosecco is always something fun. I always tell people, the larger the bottle, the better. It's a celebration, right? It's supposed to be fun and festive. And I think you can't go wrong with that.

Once you bring a bottle, you should not take it home. If you want to drink it, you should actually open it. And I think a lot of people go to a party, and they have a special bottle, and you never get around to opening it or anything like that. And I think some people will sneak back in and take it. That's very rude. So if you want to drink it, you should absolutely open it and share it with everyone.

MARTIN: People do that?

HUESTON MACK: People do that at my - even at my house.

MARTIN: Oh, really? OK. That is so - that is really extra (ph)...

HUESTON MACK: I'm putting them on blast right now.

MARTIN: You sure are. But now I'm going to be checking. Now I'm going to be looking, right? I have people - I never bother to look. OK. So as we mentioned, you're the host of the show "World Of Wines," along with other projects for Bon Appetit. For people who haven't seen the show yet, I want to share a little bit on how you rate wines. You use emojis. All right. Let's listen.


HUESTON MACK: Generally, I just stick my nose in the glass. I just want to smell first, checking for the same odors, if it's off, if it's bad, if it smells like my grandmother's basement, you know, those - you don't want those kind of qualities in wine. So this wine, you know, even though it's under $15, I feel like it has longevity. This would be a big thumbs-up emoji. Maybe double one - emoji, emoji, cowboy hat, electric bolt and a strawberry.

MARTIN: I'm a little frightened to ask, but I want to know how a cowboy hat sums up the bouquet of flavors and aromas in a fermented beverage.

HUESTON MACK: It's so funny. Wine descriptions to me really don't do anything. They're kind of frivolous in a lot of ways. We don't have them on anything else. Like you think about a cocktail, you know, there's not these fluffy descriptions about what you should taste or what you should get. And I think it's emotional. So like an easier way to convey, you know, what you should feel or what to expect, I felt like a common way to communicate now is emojis. And so why not do that with wine?

MARTIN: You founded Mouton Noir Wines in Oregon. That means Black Sheep in French. Why do you call your label the Black Sheep?

HUESTON MACK: It kind of was like a nickname that was given to me, like Mouton Noir, you know, the Black Sheep. And I thought I would just run with it. It gave me kind of creative license just to be different. There's not a lot of people who look like me.

MARTIN: You mean you mean in the world of wine?

HUESTON MACK: Yeah, in the world of wine. You know, I could feel a certain way about it, but I felt like I should embrace that, you know. Embrace what makes you different and let that help you elevate yourself.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, a lot of people these days are trying to move away from alcohol, reduce the role of alcohol in their lives for whatever reason, whatever reason.


MARTIN: But they still would like to be included, and they like something kind of fun and festive to drink. How do you make these guests feel included?

HUESTON MACK: It's a real movement. You know, sober curious, you know, is one of the terms I hear being thrown around. It's a huge sector that's been growing pretty rapidly. And there's tons of different options out in the restaurant. Someone's not drinking, but they're getting ready to have a toast at a table. We always try to pour them a little something different, these wine proxies that, you know, kind of mimic and have the taste flavors of wine, but without the alcohol.

MARTIN: And what about for the hosting at home? When you want to include your guests who aren't drinking alcohol, I mean, obviously, the sparkling cider is a classic, but what are some of your recommendations for that?

HUESTON MACK: Well, I mean, you can take the, you know, the sparkling cider and, you know, maybe add a little bit of cassis. You can definitely, like dress it up a little bit. And making everybody feel included is one of the - I guess my favorite part of all of it - right? - is like, oh, wait a minute, we have something for you as well.

MARTIN: That was sommelier Andre Hueston Mack. You can find him and his emoji wine ratings on "World Of Wine" on Bon Appetit, and you can find his wines at maisonnoirwines.com. Andre Mack, thank you so much for joining us. Happy Holidays to you.

HUESTON MACK: Thank you. You, too.

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